Jeff Masters Weather Blog

A mission to protect thorn forests in the Rio Grande Valley » Yale Climate Connections

When Gisel Garza goes to work, she heads into the thorn forests of the Rio Grande Valley. Bucket in hand, she scours the dense, shrubby landscape for about 40 different kinds of seeds.

“Some of the species that we do collect for are Texas ebony, Texas persimmon, granjeno, guayacan,” she says. “Sometimes I pick them with my hand, or sometimes I can use a stick to cause them to fall down into my bucket.”

Garza works for the nonprofit American Forests, which helps restore thorn forests in Texas.

She says the area is incredibly diverse. It’s home to endangered plants and animals, such as the ocelot.

But agriculture and urbanization have decimated the ecosystem. Less than 10% of historical thorn forests are left. And what remains is vulnerable to climate change.

Reversing the damage is difficult because nurseries do not have enough seedlings for restoration projects.

“And then recently, because of climate change and the increased droughts, some of our seedlings don’t survive as well,” Garza says.

So she supplies growers with seeds — including drought-tolerant species — so restoration work can continue and thorn forests can better survive in a warmer future.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media

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